Directed by Seth MacFarlane
After being dumped by his girlfriend, lonely sheepherder Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) falls for beautiful stranger Anna (Charlize Theron) who turns out to be the wife of one of the most dangerous outlaws in the West-Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson).
This is a hilarious Western comedy that owes more to the silliness of Blazing Saddles than it does to the sensibilities of a comedy like McClintock! I know Seth MacFarlane’s humor is not always for everyone and that may make this movie a difficult or even impossible watch for some but this is a genuinely funny film that takes jabs at the Western genre as well as modern society.
This film is set in the Old West, but the language and even the sensibilities are distinctly modern. There is no effort to olden the language to immerse you in the environment. They are going for silly in the story. They are not afraid to highlight and mock realities of the West like child marriage and even the many forms of death you could encounter which gives the movie its title.
I found Seth MacFarlane charming as the lead. I do not ever see him doing drama or a light romantic comedy but in a comedy with his stylings he is very good as the romantic lead. He pulls off being able to romance Charlize Theron’s character. She is a much more seasoned actress and could have easily overshadowed him as the wife of the film’s villain.
I was surprised to find Liam Neeson in this. He usually does action and he does drama. The least serious thing I can think of him being in was Love Actually and that has few similarities to this. To see him in a movie with the comedic sensibilities of Seth MacFarlane where he eventually gets a flower put in his ass (that happens) was a surprise. He is his usual serious self but in the silliness of the world of A Million Ways to Die it works comedically.
The legendary Wes Studi also pops up in this film as a native American shaman. The guy is a great actor and to find him in this was a shock but then again MacFarlane also convinced Liam Neeson to show up. The silliest thing I can recall Studi being in was the 90s Street Fighter live action film.
The romance between Albert and Anna is actually kind of sweet. After being saved by Albert in a saloon fight, Anna kind of takes him under her wing. What starts out as friendship turns into something more as the skilled shootist Anna teaches Albert how to shoot after he challenges the new boyfriend Foy (Neil Patrick Harris) of his ex-girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) in a misguided effort to win her back. During all this Anna gets Albert to see how good of a catch he really is and helps him find self-worth which he did not know he could have.
This is in contrast to a storyline involving Albert’s best friend Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and his prostitute girlfriend Ruth (Sarah Silverman). This provides for some serious skin crawling humor. Despite her job being to have sex with men, Ruth and Edward have never done it to the dismay of just about everyone including Ruth’s madam and local brothel owner Millie (Alex Borstein).
There are several credited and uncredited cameos in this film that range from entertaining to surprising such as: Jamie Foxx, Ryan Reynolds, Gilbert Gottfried as Abraham Lincoln seen during a drug induced flashback, Mike Henry (voice of Cleveland Brown on Family Guy) appears as a near mythical man who smiled for an old tintype picture, and Dennis Haskins of Saved by the Bell fame shows up as a snake oil salesman at the county fair. Christopher Lloyd and Ewan McGregor pop up along with Bill Maher as a comic. We even get Sir Patrick Stewart. That is impressive.
This is going off on a bit of a tangent but one thing I really enjoy about this movie is how it connects multiple films with brief scenes. I know it is nothing official with any of them, but the film Django Unchained is connected to this movie because at the end of the film Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx) shoots the owner of the “Runaway Slave” game at the county fair. This movie even connects to the Back to the Future films when Albert stumbles across Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) working on the DeLorean. So by way of this movie, Django Unchained and Back to the Future all exist in the same universe.
They were obviously just meant as jokes, but my point is you can connect movie universes with brief scenes and not extended appearances of ancillary other characters. Shared movie universes do not require extended appearances of non-title characters. I am looking at you MCU.
A Million Ways to Die is a genuinely funny film that I think people steer away from because of the Family Guy reputation. This is a funny film that pokes fun at Westerns in particular and life in general. You will enjoy.